Lord's Resistance Army: After long silence, the US-tracked rebels attack

The deadly Lord's Resistance Army goes on attack again in Democratic Republic of Congo, but coordinated efforts by regional armies and the US military has put them on the run. 

Its numbers may have dwindled to just 200 fighters, but the Lord’s Resistance Army continues to kill, terrorize, and displace people by the thousands.

One hundred US special forces trainers are working with the Ugandan military to put an end to the rebel group. And while they may have succeeded in sending the group on the run, the LRA has proven dangerous in its desperation.

The latest attacks have occurred in the last 30 days, with LRA attacks reported in the village of Bagulupa, 35 miles east of Dungu in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The attacks occurred on Feb. 10 and 24, and appear to have been standard raids for food. One person was killed, and 17 villagers abducted, probably for use as porters or sex slaves, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Most of the villagers of Bagulupa have fled toward the larger town of Dungu, the UNHCR says.

Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba, the UNHCR’s spokeswoman in Geneva, voiced concern about the recent uptick in violence in the DRC, after a six-month lull in the latter part of 2011.

“UNHCR is very concerned at the recent displacement of several thousand people as a result of renewed attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Orientale province,” said Ms. Lejeune-Kaba, adding that there have been 20 such attacks since the beginning of the year.

As suggested by its name, the Lord’s Resistance Army is a quasi-religious militia founded in 1987 in northern Uganda by Joseph Kony. The group originally fought in defense of what it believed to be the grievances of the northern Ugandan people, but its mission shifted toward one of terror and survival, and it has remained on the run ever since. LRA raids have struck deep into South Sudan, Uganda, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Congo’s Orientale Province, an estimated 320,000 people have been displaced from their homes and 30,000 more Congolese refugees have fled into neighboring Central African Republic and South Sudan.

Having been invaded in the past by Ugandan and Rwandan troops in the late 1990s, in their successful bid to topple the Congolese government of the day, the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo refuses to allow Ugandan troops to enter Congolese territory in pursuit of the LRA. But regional security experts say the Congolese troops in Orientale Province are “notoriously incapable of dealing with the rebels.”

The US government, which has sent 100 special operations forces commandos to help train the Ugandan Defense Forces who are hunting down Kony and the LRA, says that sustained pressure from the militaries of the CAR, Uganda, South Sudan, and the DRC have forced the LRA to go on the run.

"With our support, these four military forces continue to make progress in reducing the LRA numbers and keeping them from regrouping. We believe it is critical the militaries in the region continue to work together to keep the pressure on the LRA and protect their own citizens. As we have seen in the past, the LRA will exploit any reduction in military or diplomatic pressure to regroup and rebuild their forces," Karl Wycoff, the US deputy assistant secretary for African affairs, in a telephone briefing on 22 February, told IRIN news agency.

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